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Germany's Multi-Step Plan Against Labor Shortage

Reworked Skilled Immigration Act

Germany, its employers and economy is missing hundreds of thousand of workers in the IT, technology, medical, contractor and logistics sector to name just a few.

This however Germany is looking forward to tackle with their new Skilled Immigration Act, which was passed in the summer of 2023. It aims at lowering the requirements (bureaucratic & financially) for employers employing international skilled workers and employees who aim at working & living in Germany.

What does the reworked Skilled Immigration Act change and when?

The Skilled Immigration will be enacted in three stages. The first of these three stages will get in effect in November 2023, followed by the second stage in March 2024 and the third in June 2024.

Each stage has his own agenda an changes to make the process of immigration and employment in Germany easier.

Stage 01 - November 2023

The New Blue Card

In implementing the requirements of Directive (EU) 2021/1883, the German legislator has restructured and widened the migration possibilities with an EU Blue Card:

Lower salary thresholds

Wider group of people

Short-term and long-term mobility

Facilitated family reunification for EU Blue Card holders

Entitlement to residence permit for skilled workers and abandonment of the link between qualification and employment

The two central legal bases for residence permits for skilled workers with a vocational training qualification (Section 18a of the Residence Act [AufenthG]) and skilled workers holding a university degree (Section 18b of the Residence Act [AufenthG]) will be amended in two respects:

  • First, applicants will now be entitled to a residence permit if all requirements are met.

  • Second, the restriction that individuals may only work on the basis of the skills acquired with the professional qualification will be removed. In other words, if applicants have a vocational qualification or a university degree, they are not restricted to jobs related to that qualification when looking for employment. There are exceptions for regulated professions.

In the “Work visa for qualified professionals” section, you can learn about what concrete requirements are set in place in order to receive this visa or residence title.

Employment of professional drivers

The granting of approval by the Federal Employment Agency for employing professional drivers from third countries is to be simplified. As a result, it will no longer be checked whether the applicant has the required EU or EEA driving licence and the initial qualification or accelerated initial qualification. In addition, the priority check will be abolished and language skills will no longer be a requirement.

You can find further information on the regulations for professional drivers from abroad in the “Special regulations for professional drivers” subsection of the “Visa” section as well as on our website for employers in the “Professional drivers from third countries” section.

Immigration consultancy

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Stage 02 - March 2024

Residence for the recognition of a foreign professional qualification

The scope relating to residence for participating in qualification measures in Germany is being extended. The previous 18-month residence permit for the purpose of completing adaptation measures (Section 16d para. 1 of the Residence Act [AufenthG]) will now be granted for 24 months when issued for the first time. It will be possible to extend the permit for a further 12 months, up to a maximum residence period of three years. This amendment will give employers greater flexibility. The possibility of secondary employment during the qualification measure will be increased from 10 to 20 hours per week. This will make it easier for prospective skilled workers to find their way into the labour market. The purpose of undergoing qualification measures in Germany is for applicants to receive full recognition of their foreign qualifications. The new Skilled Immigration Act introduces two new access routes for this purpose:

Entry and employment under a recognition partnership

Entry for the purpose of undergoing a skills analysis

Employment of (skilled) workers

Special provision for practical professional knowledge

Access to the labour market for assistants in nursing from third countries

Job seeking following training in healthcare and nursing professions

Settlement permit for skilled workers from abroad

Facilitated family reunification for skilled workers

Residence permit for holders of start-up grants

Employment of students and trainees

Expanded employment opportunities for international students

Residence for the purpose of seeking a place at a university with career prospects

Extension of the possibilities of residence for the purpose of seeking an apprenticeship

Expanded opportunities for secondary employment for apprentices

Short-term quota employment

The changes to the law will introduce a new possibility for short-term employment of third-country nationals, regardless of their qualifications. As soon as the Federal Employment Agency (BA) sets a demand-oriented quota – which can also be differentiated for certain economic sectors or occupational groups – interested employers can apply for a work permit or approval for a residence title for foreign workers. This will be granted if the following applies:

  • The employer is bound by collective agreements and the workers are employed in accordance with the applicable collectively agreed terms and conditions of employment;

  • The employer undertakes to pay the necessary travel expenses in full;

  • The planned employment does not exceed eight months within a 12-month period; and

  • The working week is at least 30 hours.


What do you think about the passed changes for 2023/24?

  • It goes in the right way.

  • It doesn't solve the underlying problem.

  • I still need consultation.


Stage 03 - June 2024

Introduction of a job search opportunity card

An opportunity card is to be introduced to enable jobseekers to stay in Germany to look for employment. This card can be obtained in two ways: Third-country nationals who receive full recognition of their foreign qualifications and are therefore considered “skilled workers” under Section 18 para. 3 of the Residence Act (AufenthG) can obtain an opportunity card without any further special requirements. All other applicants must provide evidence of a foreign university degree, a vocational qualification of at least two years’ duration (in each case recognised by the state in the country of training) or a vocational qualification issued by a German Chamber of Commerce Abroad. In addition, a basic knowledge of German (level A1 CEFR) or English (level B2 CEFR) is required.

If these requirements are met, points are awarded for criteria such as recognition of qualifications in Germany, language skills, professional experience, age, links to Germany, and the potential of accompanying partners or spouses. Applicants must score a minimum of six points to receive an opportunity card.

Opportunity cards are issued for a maximum of one year, provided that the holder is able to support themselves for that period. It allows the holder to do work trials or take up secondary employment for a maximum of 20 hours per week during their stay in Germany. If an applicant is subsequently unable to obtain another residence title for employment purposes under Part 4 (Sections 18 to 21 of the Residence Act [AufenthG]) but nevertheless has an offer of qualified employment, the opportunity card can be extended for a further two years.

The Western Balkans Regulation

The Western Balkans regulation gives nationals of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia access to the labour market in Germany for any type of employment in non-regulated occupations. The scheme was originally set to expire at the end of 2023. The Regulation on the Further Development of Skilled Immigration will extend the Western Balkans Regulation indefinitely. From June 2024, the quota will be 50,000 approvals per year issued by the Federal Employment Agency.

What steps must I take to become a skilled worker in Germany?

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Language skills

Who to contact regarding visas/residence

As an employer, where can I get more information and support?

Initial Guidance

Individual, Personalized Advice

Skilled Workers Projects


Need Further Guidance | Consultation | Information Regarding Immigration | Employment In Germany?


For more information visit the website of the German Government - The Skilled Immigration Act or get in contact with us.

Part of the information in this article are intellectual property of a part of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. For legal correctness this parts have not been changed.


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